The Restaurant Issue: 96 Favorites
In our tiny state, 96 restaurants may seem like a lot, so let’s put this in perspective: The Delaware Restaurant Association counts 1,900 members, everything from pizza joints to Zagat-listed classics. How do we choose 96? Editors considered the atmosphere, novelty, quality of cuisine, reputation, longevity, wine program, service and value at 200 top-tier restaurants (plus a few just over the state line), including past Best of Delaware winners. We didn’t include every neighborhood tavern—we’ll get to them in another issue—nor every neighborhood Italian place. (Find them at www.delawaretoday.com/Delaware-Today/February-2008/Dining-Guide-World-Class/.) Left standing: a diverse roster of places you simply must visit—if you haven’t already.
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Ten years of style and sophistication in strip-mall laden North Wilmington is, ironically, found in a strip mall. In Culinaria’s open kitchen, the masterful Ezio Reynaud turns the familiar into something striking, be it roast salmon, famous potato-crusted catfish or otherworldly mashed potatoes. Trends be damned. Liver and onions, tomato soup, shrimp scampi—Reynaud and partner Pam Grabowski never overshoot. They do the basics very, very well. 1812 Marsh Road, Wilmington, 475-4860
The Pearl is artful in every way, from its rooftop koi pond to its martinis. Maki helped put the Pearl on the map, thanks to creative twists on rolls adored by Western palates. Look for a bit of pineapple in the East of Maui roll and habañero in the Kazan roll. The sake list is the best at the beach. The Pearl is packed in summer, but the multi-level dining nooks help guests feel more spread out. Wow—there are 15,000 gallons of water in the Pearl’s rooftop lagoon, where gazebo islands provide the best way to watch the doings in town. 301 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-8493
There was no better way to kick off the downtown Wilmington renaissance 10 years ago. Owner Dan Butler already had a proven record of great concepts and hiring great talent. From its start, Deep Blue has been sleek, urbane, lively and delicious. Power lunch, fun dinner, happy hour or late night, Deep Blue does it all. The first place in Wilmington to give fish the royal treatment is still one of the best. 111 W. 11th St., Wilmington, 777-2040
Jeff and Lisa Osias care for their guests like family, so it’s no wonder a wait on summer weekends is the norm. The Culinary Institute of America grads treat their ingredients with respect. Your veal shank won’t be swimming in an overpowering demi-glace or overwhelmed by a heavy sauce. The place is bright and airy, yet still family-cozy. 789 Garfield Pkwy., Bethany Beach, 539-4550
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